Friday, July 31, 2015

Assorted Critters

We've seen a number of critters of various sorts in our travels over the past few weeks.  Here's a selection of them.

We saw this small herd of Buffalo on a ranch up the peninsula last week, a farm we saw a similar herd on last fall.

I was weeding in the garden a month or two ago, when I heard some scratching.  Looking up at the shed, I found 3 young Red Squirrels scampering around on the outside part of the roof that extends out a bit - and chattering madly.

We've seen lots of cattle grazing.  This herd was on our Mystery Garden Tour, part of a much larger group moving slowly across the field.

And another couple of curious cows I saw a couple of months ago.

There are a fair number of horses in the area, usually too far off to get a useful picture.  But this one was right by the fence, and interested in who I was briefly.

And the Keppel Croft Garden I visited awhile back had a small sheep herd, housed in this nice old barn.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Night Skies

While visiting up the Bruce Peninsula last week we discovered that there was an astronomy night, so we headed down to the beach to see what it was all about.  Thinking there would be a lot of standing around to take turns at telescopes, I took along my own camera and tripod to try out.

This was a fascinating astronomy program, with some serious telescopes!  We got to take turns looking through both of these, seeing a close-up of the moon, Saturn's rings, and several other interesting stars.  With these telescopes you can key in known coordinates of stars or planets and the telescopes move themselves to line up!

This is the 'Bayside Astronomy Program', run by the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association.  It extends 8 weeks, and provides three telescopes with experts to show you the skies, 4 days of the week, in 4 different locations.  Each week a different short talk is provided, and a chance to look at different celestial objects. 

I was right about standing around to take turns, so I practised getting some sky shots myself.  I've always been fascinated with the constellations, and managed to capture three of them.  This is the Big Dipper, with the North Start off to the right.

And this is Cassiopeia, or the 'Big W', though it's a slightly lopsided 'W'.  It was my father who got me watching constellations.  He taught navigation by the stars for the Air Force during WWII.

This one is a little more complicated.  The three bright stars in lower right, top and left form the Summer Triangle.  Respectively the stars are Altair, Vega, and Deneb - three of the easiest stars in the sky to see.  But within them the four stars on the left plus a faint one to the right of those form a cross, known as the Northern Cross, within the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.  The two lower left of these line up to point to the North Star, an alternate way to find direction for navigators (like the better known two right hand stars of the Big Dipper above).

I tried again at home the other night, and did successfully get pictures of Cassiopeia (above), and the Big Dipper (below), in spite of wispy cloud cover.

I found it quite a challenge to get these photos so the stars showed up, and there were a lot of discards!  They were all 30 second exposures on a tripod.  I'm going to have to practice a lot more to get images I'm happy with!

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The Birdhouse Fence!

Last weekend, after stopping in Stokes Bay up the Bruce Peninsula for their 'Summerfest', we drove down some sideroads and encountered the 'Birdhouse Fence'!  I couldn't resist taking a few shots of this unique exhibition  of folk art!

If you look closely you'll see that there's actually a double line of fenceposts.  I guess they added extra posts out front in order to add more birdhouses!

If there are posts but no actual fencing between the posts, does that still count as a fence?

 Someone has had a lot of fun creating this.

If anyone local is interested, this was found on the road south out of the village of Stokes Bay.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mystery Plant Identified

After getting two suggestions, and carefully perusing the available on-line diagrams, I've concluded that my mystery flower of the other day is Cota tinctoria, known as Golden Marguerite or Yellow Chamomile.  Thanks also to those who suggested Lasthenia Californica or California Goldfields.

Here's the flower again.  The challenge is that there are many such yellow daisy-like flowers, so it's hard to tell by the flower.

It was these two diagrams that I found on-line that convinced me.  The leaves above match my mystery plant exactly, while those below don't.  That above is the Golden Marguerite, while the illustration below is the California Goldfields.

Compare the leaves of the actual plant here, and I think you'll agree with me.  It was actually the Head Gardener here who sorted it out, and vaguely remembered tossing some seed in that area.  I guess the seed successfully germinated!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Country Roads

Got John Denver running through my mind today.  These were all taken on a rainy day, either still raining or just after the rain.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Warning - Poisonous Plant!

Driving up the Bruce Peninsula the other day, we encountered the poisonous plant Wild Parsnip for the first time.  It's an invasive species, and it seems to be spreading like mad.  I had never even seen it before.  It can give very serious burns if you touch it, so you should learn to recognize it.

This is a small corner of the infestation that we saw, spread like this along both sides of the highway for two miles.  We saw scattered plants elsewhere too.

At first glance it looks a bit like a yellow Queen Anne's Lace, but as you can see the leaves are much more substantial.

This is the flower, very much like Queen Anne's Lace, except for being yellow.  It's actually rather pretty.

The lower stems are thick, and often with this reddish colouring up and down the stem, with clinging green leaves.

A close look shows that the leaf is quite different than the 'carroty' looking leaves of Queen Anne's Lace.

And these are the seed pods of the flower.

In any case, touching any part of this plant can get its oil on your skin, which is then photo-sensitive, and when exposed to sunlight with burn your skin - from a slight red burn to serious blistering burns.  In severe cases it results in hospitalization, and can even lead to blindness if the oil gets in your eye.

The best antidote is to wash the area with soap quickly, and cover up the skin so it is not exposed to light.  But of course it's a lot better to learn to recognize it and avoid it.  It's especially important to protect children from this plant!

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Butterflies and a Mystery Flower

We continue to get assorted butterflies stopping in the garden, sometimes staying still for long enough that I can get a picture.

I've spotted the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail several times over the spring and summer, but this time it sat for a minute on the Milkweed for me.

This tiny creature is one of the several species of Hairstreaks that we can see, all with tiny 'tails' on the hind wings, those tiny protrusions on the lower left.  This one is a Striped Hairstreak, identifiable by the blue-gray spot capped with reddish orange.

This is a Fritillary, probably the Great Spangled Fritillary, though it's hard to tell without a good look at the open wings.  It only stopped for a few seconds, and I was lucky to be there with my macro lens and get 3 quick shots like this one, cropped about as much as I can afford to, before it fluttered off.

And this is my mystery flower.  It came up among other 'weeds' in the sandy soil on top of our septic bed.  It's only about one foot tall or less, and only about 1-1.5 inches across.  I simply can't find a match in my wildflower guide.  Neither the large yellow centre buttons and short yellow rays, nor the leaves (below), match anything I can find.

These are the leaves.  It's a bit like a Tansy, or a Ragwort, but these leaves are truly tiny, only about an inch long each, and there appear to be no different basal leaves which many meadow wildflowers have.  Can anyone help?

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